I have a number of traditions at Christmas which make the season special. These include putting a green man bought at Canterbury Cathedral on the top of the Christmas tree while listening to Michael Buble, watching Muppet Christmas Carol, and cooking enough red onion chutney to feed an army.
Another essential is pantomime, but not just any old pantomime. Canterbury Marlowe’s panto is, for me, one of the great joys of the Christmas season and despite moving away from the city, there was no way I was going to miss it. I can categorically say that I was right to make the trip as it, once again, was absolutely brilliant.
#Tweetingit – 2** a troubling storyline which should be updated for a modern audience and choreography that could be far more impressive particularly since the cast doesn’t sing. 5***** for the “Bee Gees” performing the classic songs. Full review to follow.
Saturday Night Fever is possibly the first of the Jukebox musicals; a show jam-packed with Bee Gees hits coupled with a dark and gritty story.
For those who haven’t seen the film, it stars John Travolta as Tony Manero, a working-class young man who spends his weekends dancing and drinking at a local Brooklyn disco. While there, Tony is the champion dancer. His circle of friends, weekend dancing and the fact he is adored by the ladies, help him to cope with the harsh realities of his life: a dead-end job, clashes with his unsupportive and squabbling parents and racial tensions in the local community. Meanwhile, everyone around him are battling with problems of their own. Stephanie, his dance partner, trying to fit into the big city, Annette, his previous dance partner and would be girlfriend, dealing with rejection, and all his male buddies coping with what it means to grow up.
Originally posted on Review Hub http://www.thereviewshub.com/finding-joy-marlowe-theatre-canterbury/ in 2014
With Vamos theatre coming back to the Marlowe on the 4th of October, I thought it was time to reshare my review of Finding Joy. This is an amazing play and worth every tear!
A fully masked play with no dialogue about dementia? Well, that sounds like a harrowing night out – but I promise, this is a play which is more than worth the tears.
If you ever ranked types of theatre with mime firmly at the bottom, Finding Joy will change your mind completely. I was certainly one of those people who would never have considered going to see a mime/mask performance but in the last few months, I have seen two fabulous productions, including this one, and I won’t look back.
#Tweetingit – 4* A fabulous and seamless collaboration by amateurs and professionals to create one of Shakespeare’s best comedies.
In this, the year (and today date) of Shakespeare’s 400th anniversary, theatre companies are approaching Shakespeare in new and exciting ways, immersive productions, rarely performed versions, promenade performances, and tours, trying to get as many people involved in and make people aware of Shakespeare as possible – trying to make people realise it isn’t just a dreary, must study and analyse-to-within-an-inch-of-its-life subject at school but in fact, a very entertaining piece of theatre and something for everyone.
#Tweetingit – 2* “No Jokes, none at all” says Guy Burgess minutes into the play. Unfortunately, this is pretty much how I felt for the rest of the evening
Alan Bennett’s double bill of plays focuses on the Cambridge 5 Spy Ring. Burgess and Blunt’s stories are a mystery – little is known about them, what they did, why they did it. And I can promise that this play will not fill in those gaps. So just to give some background – this is the story. Guy Burgess, Anthony Blunt, Donald MacLean and Kim Philby were all employees of the UK Government and are the four confirmed members of the Cambridge Five, a spy ring that contributed to the Communist cause with the transmission of secret Foreign Office and MI5 documents that described NATO military and Marshall Plan economic strategy. (thank you Wikipedia).
Single Spies focuses on the first two – perhaps because they are deemed the most interesting since they were in a relationship. The first half of the play focuses on Burgess in exile in Moscow, the second on Blunt’s role at the heart of the establishment in London. Few details are given about their lives or what they did, and instead the two playlets focus on the consequences of being removed from everything you know and the disconnect between who we appear to be in comparison with what the reality is respectively.
Despite the play itself not being to my taste – there were some good points; the set was impressive, the costumes were well put together and the actors did a good job. In the first of the two plays, Nicholas Farrell captured the peculiarity of the chain-drinking, unkempt ex-spy although much more could have been made of Burgess as a tragic character; there was a clear love for England, the people, the style and so on and that he didn’t really like “the comrades which could have added depth to this play. The second half was, unfortunately, a somewhat agonizingly long allegory on how things aren’t always what they seem and could’ve been half the length.
The thing is, actually, those people who are going to go to see this play, will do so whatever a review says. To me, however, it seems dated, the mystery and interest behind Blunt and Guy is not one that is at the forefront of our minds, and the fact that the two were homosexual is not a big shock-horror moment to this modern audience. But there are subsets of theatregoers who will always love an Alan Bennet Play and will titter away at the old fashioned jokes and will let the story unfold in its own good time, letting the metaphors reveal themselves at the point that the character understands gets point, rather than 40 minutes earlier when it became obvious to me.
I did take a few things away though – I like Moscow Mules; the “of the time” drink I had at the interval, double breasted jackets should be banned, that Tision’s The Allegory of Prudence has more than the 3 characters depicted in it (behind the first layer of paint)….and I don’t think I will be going to an Alan Bennett play again.
Writer: Alan Bennet
Director: Rachel Kavanaugh
Running until Saturday 12 May at the Marlowe and then continues on its tour until 30 April.
#Tweetingit: Review in 140 characters – A timeless classic which both adults and children alike will love
There is no doubt in my mind that this is a timeless classic. Cats ran for 21 years in London and 18 years on Broadway, making it the second longest running show ever on Broadway. It has won 7 Tonys and 2 Olivier Awards, has been made into a film and performed all over the world. Adults and children alike can enjoy something about this show. The last time I saw it, I was 12. I loved the giant junk yard set; spotting bits of old household furniture, enlarged to show the perspective of the cats, the actors as cats fascinated me with their incredible costumes and make up and well observed feline qualities. Now as an adult, I appreciate the music, the words and dance. I never realised before how balletic the show is, how demanding it must be on the cast and how impressive it is that they can sing some seriously challenging songs and harmonies while leaping around the stage.
However, it appears that this is not the view of many. Most people are either a cat lovers or a dog lovers and matching this trend are those who either love or hate Andrew Lloyd Webber’s hit musical. It seems a lot of people see this as a bit of an odd musical with no real story other than that a group of cats have got together to sing, dance and finally be chosen to be reincarnated – yes that’s right – reincarnated!
The story revolves around a clowder of cats celebrating the jellicle ball. On one night a year the group of Jellicle Cats meet to celebrate and tell stories while waiting for their spiritual leader, Old Deuteronomy, to select one them to journey to the Heaviside Layer and ascend to the next realm. While the cats are waiting for this to happen, the audience are introduced to them all and are told their life stories.
Despite Memory being the number everyone remembers from the show, Mr Mistoffelees is the stand out song of the night. Joseph Pulton as Mr Mistoflees .does an impressive job as the quintessential ballet dancing cat. Wowing the audience with his wowing the audience with his dance prowess, he certainly matches all of which the song proclaims about him.
Other exciting numbers include that of the acrobatic and very likeable petty criminals, Mungojerrie and Rumpelteazer, played excellently portrayed by Benjamin Yates and Dawn Williams. Despite there notable height difference, they worked together to produce some remarkable tumbling and aerobic dancing. While the Gumbie trio, Abigail Jaye, Clare Rickard and Chaelen Ford. pulled off beautiful harmonies with ease, creating a sounds similar to that of The Andrews Sisters. And of course is the opening number – Jellicle Songs for Jellicle Cats which cannot be forgotten.
The entire cast are seriously accomplished. Away from the lead roles were three in particular who I couldn’t tear my eyes from when they graced the stage. Cassie Clare as Cassandra the Egyptian Sphinx made her professional stage debut in an impressive way wither playful, mysterious and elegant take on the role. While elsewhere in the female cast was some sensational ballet moves from The White Cat – Hannah Kenna Thomas. The “chorus” actor who stood out for me was Alonzo played by Adam Lake. His dancing was perfect, strong and sexy while his flips, tumbles and feline qualities were perfectly performed. I would like to see him in a bigger part on another occasion.
The only criticism I have is that some of the songs are now a tad prosaic. After hearing the first couple of lines you could probably guess most of the rest of the tune especially since many of them have hints of Joseph about them. However, this doesn’t stop them being beautiful songs with some seriously challenging harmonies and high notes.
If you are a fan of musicals, a dance lover or want some nostalgia and a fun and easy show to watch, this is definitely for you. If you want a solid story and narrative then it really isn’t. There’s definitely life in the old Cat yet and I can see it continually falling its feet for a long time to come.
Runs until: Saturday 28th June 2014 and then continues to tour
4* – Kate Tempest is an incredible poet and writer. A poignant look at our relationship with alcohol and wasted opportunities
“A play by the UK’s most exciting performance poet and rapper.” This may not sound like everyone’s’ cup of tea, however, having seen Wasted at The Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury, all I can say is – WOW. Debuting as a playwright, Kate Tempest has written an extremely poignant, thought-provoking and moving piece about the difficulties of growing up.
On the 10th anniversary of their friend’s death, the story surrounds three protagonists; Charlotte, Ted and Danny who are dragging themselves kicking and screaming out of their teenage years into ‘the real world’. They are battling with the dramas of normal, boring life – feeling suffocated in the cosiness of their relationships, disillusioned with their ordinary jobs and wasting their lives getting wasted following missed opportunities.
Seemingly aimed very much at teenagers and university students; the majority of the tour dates are at Student Unions, this isn’t just about student life – in fact, it is even more relevant to those no longer in the depths of youth. Every part of life has its struggles and Wasted is written in such a way that it is applicable to those much older and younger than the characters on stage.
At 26 the characters still want to have fun but realise that if they get too drunk on a Saturday then their Sunday is wasted, they can’t clean the house or go to Ikea to pick curtains and then they’re back to the monotony of work the next day. It is also hinted at that this doesn’t change later on, there’s other responsibilities; kids, grandchildren, elderly parents – without saying it and making an exhaustive list of woes throughout life, Kate Tempest has hit on all of this while making it relevant to the entire audience
This isn’t all doom, gloom and misery though. There are some genuinely funny and touching moments which ensures that the audience don’t just sit feeling desolate. The nice things of being in your late 20s are alluded to and even the characters seem to realise by the end that it isn’t the end of the world that they aren’t rock stars, extremely wealthy or unable to change the world.
Not content with just writing a great script, Tempest and her team have created a feast for the senses. To compliment her words, technology is used to enhance every part of the play. Emotional monologues are heightened by close ups of the actors faces on a large screen – expressing the feelings which perhaps are suppressed on stage, the screen also creates much of the set throughout the play – a park or rave. The lighting by Angela Anson is simple but extremely affective, while Tom Gibbons’ and Kwake’s music is moving and continues to add to the endless levels of intensity within this show.
Poetry is scary for a lot of people but Tempest’s clever use of language to create this urban style of verse makes it all so easy. The language is very strong in places but in no way does this feel gratuitous. Kate Tempest is a true craftswoman – carving out stunning verses which can be understood by anyone and moulding a wonderful story to compliment the poetry with transitions between the two not feeling in any way unnatural. This can also be very much tributed to the incredibly talented cast, Cary Crankson, Alice Haig and Bradley Taylor, who work with the verse and pros with ease, finishing one another’s sentences and taking on the lines very naturally. Nothing feels forced, no words are used just because they fit. Everything which is written and said is there for a reason, it is sincere, beautiful and honest. This is an innovative, modern and completely unmissable play ranking high above the rest. You will not feel that your evening has been wasted – book a ticket for this play.
5* Beyond stunning – there are no other words for this show.
The audience leave the theatre in silence. The women wipe away the mascara and try to blot their red eyes while the men puff out their chests and try to pretend that it didn’t effect them. It is absolutely astounding that a production with no words and done purely with physical theatre and mime, can have the sort of affect on you that Translunar Paradise has managed to have on an entire audience. Ad Infinitum’s fantastic production takes you through the life, death, enduring memories and fervid love of a couple, tackling the loss of loved ones, of youth and of the person you once were.
The synopsis in the program of this play does not do it justice. Portraying the lives of a couple who have been together through good times and bad, the story confronts the subject of what it is like to go through bereavement at an old age; losing the person in your life you have loved most, the person you have been through everything with and whom you have rituals and habits with. Left alone following the death of his wife, the elderly man has to learn how to cope. With the help of his wife (not really a ghost but a more of a presence) he learns to let go of her and work out how he will function without her. In turn this allows her to leave as well; her mind at rest that he is going to survive.
There are only two performers who play the couple in both their early and later years. The use of some extraordinary masks, which despite being unmoving, had endless emotion coming through them, and the impressive physicality of the actors – minute shakes in their hands, slight unease on their feet and then the complete opposite for their younger roles, means the audience are completely sucked into the story.
The sound was incredible and it was all done with nothing but an accordion and the musician’s voice. The accordion served as a way to push the story along; it was a clock, the wind, breathing as well as producing resplendent melodies and beautiful wordless vocals. Each song had a theme which led the audience to understand what era the characters were in and whether we should expect a happy or sad moment.
Mention physical theatre and people roll their eyes. Trust me: there should be no eye rolling her. A mixture of interpretive movement, physical theatre and mime allows the audience to see this couple of dancing through their lives together from their first meeting to their final moments. This production is brilliant because it explains the simple things which affect people when their partner dies in a way that words cannot. For 60 years he has got out 2 cups from the cupboard and poured for both himself and his wife. Now she is gone, what does he do with the other cup? This is a feeling which is indescribable so they don’t try to. Words would not work here. Yes the significant moments are seen; their first meeting, a heart breaking loss, her getting her first job, him going to war, but this isn’t about the big things. Instead it is the day-to-day stuff which one must continue on with despite having lost their loved ones.
Despite being extremely sad it is also heart-warming. There are some achingly funny moments tinged with sorrow – as she steals her cup from the table to stop him from continuing with his rituals, much to his shock. The relationship between the characters , their playfulness and their understanding of one another after a lifetime together, is still evident despite the grief they are both feeling having lost one another.
The Marlowe Studio have really never let their audiences down with the quality of productions they have hosted. Having seen four shows there, I have been blown away each and every time by the effect the shows have had on both me and the rest of the audience. The close proximity to the stage and the ability to bring the audience into the performance by way of clever sounds, lighting and sometimes even smells, ensures a very different theatrical experience to that in a larger auditorium and Translunar Paradise is just the next level of brilliance brought to this theatre.
Just mentioning his lone tea cup after the show brought tears back to my eyes. An unbearable image so perfectly portrayed. This show was highly praised when it was at the Edinburgh Festival and it is quite understandable why. Yes the narrative is a tad predictable but it really does not matter. Yes it is sad, but the tears are worth it. Go to see this show – if for nothing else but to realise physical theatre really can be a beautiful and powerful art form if done as well as Ad Infinitum have.
5* An emotive, stunning piece created and performed by an extremely talented writer and cast. Dialogue-less mask work at its best.
A fully masked play with no dialogue about dementia? Well that sounds like a harrowing night out – but I promise, this is a play which is more than worth the tears.
If you ever ranked types of theatre with mime firmly at the bottom, Finding Joy will change your mind completely. I was certainly one of those people who would never have considered going to see a mime/mask performance but in the last few months, I have seen two fabulous productions, including this one, and I wont look back.
Finding joy is the touching tale of 83 year old Joy. She’s suffering from dementia but it’s happening pretty slowly. At times, she is as playful and alert as she has ever been and then those moments hit where she is confused, lost, out in a road on her own with no idea how she got there or who she is.
Her unlikely savior is her rebellious, drug taking grandson who realises that he can help her and becomes, not only her carer but also her friend. The love between the two main characters is portrayed beautifully.
In lucid moments, she is a bit of a trickster, playing practical jokes on her grandson and daughter for her own amusement. These moments are made even more poignant when a few minutes later she is putting a card in the fridge or rubbing toothpaste on her hands before bed.
Told with no words, just a beautiful soundtrack echoing different periods of Joy’s life, the magic of this production is the incredible story telling through mime alone. The unmoving masks, created by Russell Dean, somehow have expressions; you see them smile, sigh, look sad or look confused.
Vamos are masters at what they do this production emphasises that they have managed to secure their place as one of the best full mask companies around. They certainly know how to pack a punch, never shying away from the difficult or sentimental moment but balancing them brilliantly with touching and tragically funny moments. When Joy is sat with her grandson and his friends watching football and decides the cushion is a hat – they all join her – why not?
Some people may not appreciate some of the stereotypes – the uncaring nurse in the hospital or loud music playing, drug taking youths but when using mime and masks, it is difficult to remove such stereotypes or add in subtleties without losing the meaning.
Clever writing and talented actors have managed to create a show which will make you laugh while tears pour down your face; seamlessly going between the two extremes is not an easy feat to achieve.
It got to the end and I was surprised it was over so soon. So many shows leave you pleased that it is finally the end; not Finding Joy. Content in that world, watching the story unfold, it was sad to see it end – although I was running out of tears to cry.
This is no longer running at the Marlowe but is on tour around the country until June 12th 2014
5* A stunning, strong and intense take on a classic. Bourne doing what he does best; creating breath-taking, modern ballet for all to enjoy
Matthew Bourne made his name telling contemporary versions of the classics; his world war II take on Cinderella and a bold re-imagining of the ballet classic, Sleeping Beauty, cramming what is usually not much more than a show piece, with dynamic choreography and a clear narrative line and most famously his powerful, provocative and totally original interpretation of Swan Lake complete with an all male flock of swans, breaking the boundaries of classic style and fashioning a partnership of ballet technique with modern style Matthew Bourne’s productions are like no other ballet. Little pointe work and not a tutu in sight are the first clues to this not being your typical classical ballet. He creates something completely different, something awe inspiring.
Narratives and storytelling are Bourne’s M.O, and he never scrimps when it comes to this side of things. He is very aware of audiences, his aim is to break down the “language of dance”, create new ballets with wide appeal and win over the public. This was certainly the case with Swan Lake, there was no doubt as to what was going on and, judging by the standing ovation, the audience were definitely won over.
The story revolves around a young Prince, emotionally bereft and unsuitable for his public role, he torments himself with his failure and inability to perform his royal duties. With little support from his mother, the queen, and craving love and attention he discovers a new world to inhabit and receive the contact and acceptance he desires – almost a modern ugly duckling
For the first forty or so minutes, however, there is not a swan in sight and actually, very little which resembles ballet as you would know it. Having seen some of these dancers before and knowing their skills and grace, I was itching for them to do what they do best. But these first moments were not about just the dance; the story needed to be woven, each individual thread being placed just so to ensure that the audience were completely drawn in and captivated and entranced by the Matthew Bourne spell. During the early parts of the performance, there are also some wonderfully comedic moments – the Queen and Prince going to see a ballet with the Prince’s ditzy girlfriend. Matthew Bourne appears to mock classic ballet with its over the top movements and often non-sensical stories.
Finally swans appear. Swan Lake swans usually conjures and image of beautiful graceful women in tutus gliding and twirling across the stage with elegance. Bourne creates a different and actually more realistic version, created by strong, muscular and, for most of the performance, extremely sweaty, men. When the prince approaches the swans, it seems almost like they are a fraternity with an initiation ceremony to fulfil. He won’t be accepted without a fight. They breathe together, they move in unison, almost performing a martial arts kata. They twitch their heads and arch their necks, it is powerful, strong and quite aggressive. The movements capture the real life version of these beautiful but potentially vicious animals.
There is not a dancer on stage who can be criticised but a couple of the ensemble stood out; from the men, Luke Jackson was a powerful presence on stage while Katrina Lyndon from the female ensemble was sultry in her princess roles.
And then there are the two leads whose stunning movement makes you hold your breath and feel everything they feel. Liam Mower’s Prince is clearly suffering emotional torment, battling with his feelings desires and inner thoughts. His movements tug at the audience’s emotions while Jonathon Ollivier’s commands the stage in his role as the formidable and passionate Swan. When the Prince and the Swan dance together, it is mesmerising and beautiful making you hold your breath and feel everything they feel. Matthew Bourne has stated that this is often seen as homoerotic but that surely it is actually just erotic? I didn’t even view it like that; these dances, sex unimportant, moved together beautifully, in harmony with real feeling, telling a beautiful story.
The finale is a climatic extravaganza. The vicious and menacing swans take no prisoners as their jealousy of the Prince becoming the favoured one of their alpha male gets too much and they brutally attack him in his bed. The lighting and set add some incredible extra atmosphere during these moments too.This truly chilling, magnificent and ferocious performance is not to be missed. It doesn’t feel like your “typical” ballet – it is certainly something quite wonderful and over 20 years since it first appeared at Sadler’s Wells it is still as astonishing as it ever has been. Ballet fan or not, I implore you to go to see any of this truly magnificent choreographer’s work.
Matthew Bourne returns to The Marlowe Theatre this September with Lord Of The Flies, featuring eight professional New Adventures dancers as well as 25 local boys in a brand new production of William Golding’s classic novel. For full details, go to marlowetheatre.com.
Beyond the Blurb: Want to see where I sat and where to eat and drink before the show?